Repo Commentary-03/18/20

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I am still NOT retired. I am consulting on all things Repo and Securities Lending, and working on a fintech project. So, if you need my almost 38 years of Securities Financing expertise or access to my vast network of about 9000 clients, call (646-753-1300), email (jeffkidwell82@gmail.com), or hit me up on LinkedIn.

It was great reconnecting and seeing many of you a few weeks ago at the IMN Securities Finance conference in Fort Lauderdale! I can’t believe, after pounding the pavement and extolling the virtues of peer-to-peer financing through my product for over 10 years, that almost every single panel at the conference discussed peer-to-peer financing. It was very heart-warming! I’m glad to see that everyone has come around!

My Repo Commentary is posted free (it’s actually always been free) on my website: http://www.repocommentary.com. It also pops up on LinkedIn, the Global Investors Group (ISF Magazine) website, and on CentralBanks.com as an op-ed. You will now be seeing it more frequently again.

Since its inception in 1982, the Repo Commentary does not represent the views of any of my former firms and reflects only my opinion and includes only publicly available information. I make a strong effort to attribute any quotes or thoughts that are not my own, I do not make any marketing spiels, and I really am more interested (70-80%) in entertaining you than boring (20-30%) you with too much market info. Feel free, as always, to send me information or pictures!

Holidays or Events (03/18):

¥ National Biodiesel Day
¥ Awkward Moments Day
¥ Forgive Mom and Dad Day
¥ Goddess of Fertility Day
¥ National Lacy Oatmeal Cookie Day
¥ Take Down Tobacco National Day of Action
¥ National Sloppy Joe Day
¥ Supreme Sacrifice Day
¥ Feast Day of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (Christianity)
¥ The earliest day on which Holy Wednesday can fall (4/21 is the latest), celebrated the week before Easter (Christianity)
¥ Flag Day in Aruba
¥ Gallipoli Memorial Day in Turkey
¥ Men’s and Soldiers’ Day in Mongolia
¥ Ordinance Factories’ Day in India
¥ Sheelah’s Day (Ireland, Canada, Australia)
¥ Teachers Day in Syria

Spring officially begins just before midnight ET Thursday, 3/19, in the Northern Hemisphere, and Autumn/Fall begins in the Southern Hemisphere. But, Friday is really the first full day of Spring.

Some Famous People Born on 3/18 in History:

¥ 1495-Mary Tudor, Queen of France
¥ 1609-Frederick III of Denmark
¥ 1813-Christian Friedrich Hebbel, German poet and playwright
¥ 1837-Grover Cleveland, American lawyer, 22nd and 24th President of the United States
¥ 1909-Ernest Gallo, American businessman, co-founded the E & J Gallo Winery
¥ 1912-Art Gilmore, American voice actor and narrator
¥ 1926-Peter Graves, American actor and director
¥ 1927-George Plimpton, American journalist and actor
¥ 1927-Lillian Vernon, German-American businesswoman and philanthropist, founded the Lillian Vernon Company
¥ 1932-John Updike, American novelist, short story writer, critic
¥ 1934-Charley Pride, American country music singer and musician
¥ 1936-F.W.de Klerk, South African lawyer and politician, 2nd State President of South Africa, Nobel Prize laureate
¥ 1938-Shashi Kapoor, Indian actor and producer
¥ 1938-Timo Makinen, Finnish race car driver
¥ 1941-Wilson Pickett, American singer-songwriter
¥ 1948-Guy Lapointe, Canadian hockey player and coach
¥ 1951-Ben Cohen, American businessman and philanthropist, co-founded Ben and Jerry’s
¥ 1956-Ingemar Stenmark, Swedish skier
¥ 1962-Irene Cara, American singer-songwriter, actress, and producer
¥ 1963-Vanessa L. Williams, American model, actress, and singer
¥ 1964-Bonnie Blair, American speed skater
¥ 1966-Jerry Cantrell, Americans singer-songwriter and guitarist
¥ 1970-Queen Latifah, American rapper, producer and actress
¥ 1972-Dane Cook, American comedian, actor, director and producer
¥ 1979-Adam Levine, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, television personality (Maroon 5)
¥ 1992-Ryan Truex, American race car driver

This Day in History (03/18):

• 1068-an earthquake in the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula, leaves up to 20,000 dead.
• 1229-Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, declares himself King of Jerusalem in the Sixth Crusade.
• 1241-First Mongol invasion of Poland: Mongols overwhelm Polish armies in Krakow in the Battle of Chmielnik and plunder the city.
• 1314-Jacques de Molay, the 23rd and final Grand Master of the Knights Templar, is burned at the stake. The Knights Templar, with support of the Crusades waning, was dissolved by order of Pope Clement V in 1312. King Philip IV of France, who was deeply in debt to the Templars, like others in Europe claimed the wealth of the Templars as their own, and himself had Molay and many other French Templars arrested and tortured. Molay later retracted his confession and Philip had him burned upon a scaffold on and island in the middle of the River Seine, in front of Notre-Dame de Paris.
• 1438-Albert II of Habsburg becomes Holy Roman Emperor.
• 1608-Susenyos is formally crowned Emperor of Ethiopia.
• 1644-the Third Anglo-Powhatan War begins in the Colony of Virginia.
• 1766-the American Revolution: the British Parliament repeals the Stamp Act.
• 1793-the first modern republic in Germany, the Republic of Mainz, is declared by Andreas Joseph Hofmann.
• 1848-March Revolution: in Berlin there is a struggle between citizens and military, costing about 300 lives.
• 1850-American Express is founded by Henry Wells and William Fargo. I never knew that!
• 1865-American Civil War: the Congress of the Confederate States adjourns for the last time.
• 1874-Hawaii signs a treaty with the United States granting exclusive trade rights.
• 1892-former Governor General Lord Stanley pledges to donate a sliver challenge cup as an award for the best hockey team in Canada. It was later named after him as the Stanley Cup.
• 1900-AFC Ajax Amsterdam, The Netherland’s biggest and most successful football club, was founded.
• 1913-King George I of Greece is assassinated in the recently liberated city of Thessaloniki.
• 1915-WWI: during the Battle of Gallipoli, 3 battleships are sunk during a failed British and French naval attack on the Dardanelles.
• 1921-the second Peace of Riga is signed between Poland and the Soviet Union.
• 1922-in India, Mohandas Gandhi is sentenced to six years in prison for civil disobedience.
• 1925-the Tri-State Tornado hits the Midwestern states of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, killing 695 people.
• 1937-the New London School explosion in New London, TX kills 300 people, mostly children.
• 1937-Spanish Civil War: Spanish Republican forces defeat the Italians at the Battle of Guadalajara.
• 1938-Mexico creates Pemex by expropriating all foreign-owned oil reserves and facilities.
• 1940-WWII: Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini meet at the Brenner Pass in the Alps and agree to form an alliance against France and the United Kingdom.
• 1942-the War Relocation Authority is established in the US to take Japanese Americans into custody.
• 1944-Mount Vesuvius in Italy erupts, killing 26 people, causing thousands to flee their homes and destroying dozens of Allied bombers.
• 1953-an earthquake hits western Turkey, killing 265 people.
• 1959-the Hawaii Admission Act is signed into law.
• 1962-the Evian Accords end the Algerian War of Independence.
• 1965-Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, leaving his spacecraft Voskhod 2 for 12 minutes, become the first person to walk in space.
• 1968-the US Congress repeals the requirement for a gold reserve to back US currency, the Gold Standard.
• 1970-Lon Nol ousts Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia.
• 1971-a landslide crashes into Yanawaying Lake in Peru, killing 200 people at the mining camp of Chungar.
• 1990-Germans in the German Democratic Republic vote in the first democratic elections in the former communist dictatorship.
• 1990-in the largest art theft in US history, 13 paintings, collectively worth about $500 million, are stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The crime remains unsolved and there is still a $10 million reward for information.
• 1994-Bosnia’s Bosniaks and Croats sign the Washington Agreement, ending war between the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia and the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and establishing the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
• 1997-the tail of a Russian Antonov An-24 charter plane breaks off while en route to Turkey causing the plane to crash and killing all 50 people on board.
• 2014-the parliaments of Russia and Crimea sign an accession treaty.
• 2015-the Bardo National Museum in Tunisia is attacked by gunmen, 23 people, almost all tourists, are killed, and at least 50 other people are wounded.

Daily Weird Facts:

The largest earthquake ever recorded was a magnitude 9.5 in Chile in 1960.

Daily Affirmation/Thought/Pun/Quote:

“It’s much more interesting to embrace who you really are rather than waste energy pretending to be someone else.”—Adam Levine

Currency and Commodity Markets:

Oil prices closed at:

$74.34/barrel on 10/5
$47.66/barrel on 12/23
$48.63 on 01/07
$52.31/barrel on 01/16
$55.26/barrel on 2/3
$55.41/barrel on 2/26
$73.77/barrel on 4/29
$63.28/barrel on 5/17
$54.07/barrel on 6/18
$55.96/barrel on 7/24
$58.31/barrel on 9/10
$53.50/barrel on 10/2
$59.10/barrel on 12/8
$58.81/barrel on 1/17
$54.39/barrel on 2/7
$35.92/barrel on 3/11
$27.15/barrel on 3/18

Oil prices continue to plummet, down 57.19% in just one month! They are now the lowest in more than 17 years. However, the price of gasoline at my West Palm Beach station only slipped in the past week by 14 cents, to $2.05/gallon. Most of the other stations in the area are 20-60 cents more per gallon.

One USD versus the Yen was trading at (these are all Repo Commentary dates):

112.20 on 12/24
108.60 on 01/07
109.07 on 01/16
103.18 on 02/03
104.86 on 2/25
103.86 on 5/17
102.59 on 6/18
102.43 on 7/24
101.72 on 9/10
102.16 on 10/02
102.96 on 12/06
104.30 on 01/17/20
104.80 on 02/07/20
99.23 on 03/11/20
101.67 on 03/18/20

One Euro was trading on:

12/24 at $1.1426
01/07 at $1.1478
01/16 at $1.1396
02/03 at $1.2047
02/25 at $1.1955
05/17 at $1.1761
06/18 at $1.1825
07/24 at $1.1740
09/10 at $1.1623
10/02 at $1.1504
12/06 at $1.1688
01/17 at $1.1721
02/07 at $1.1543
03/11 at $1.1937
03/18 at $1.1575

One British Pound was trading on:

12/24 at $1.2655
01/07 at $1.2770
01/16 at $1.2880
02/03 at $1.3758
02/25 at $1.3728
05/17 at $1.3427
06/18 at $1.3157
07/24 at $1.3070
09/10 at $1.2959
10/02 at $1.2882
12/06 at $1.3819
01/17 at $1.3753
02/07 at $1.3574
03/11 at $1.354
03/18 at $1.2665

One USD versus the CAD at:

1.3442 on 12/24
1.3297 on 01/07
1.3255 on 01/16
1.2492 on 2/03
1.2492 on 2/25
1.2800 on 5/17
1.2740 on 6/18
1.2480 on 7/24
1.2520 on 9/10
1.2560 on 10/02
1.2530 on 12/06
1.2390 on 01/17
1.2640 on 02/07
1.3020 on 03/11
1.3540 on 03/18

Gold closed on 9/09 at $1504.90/ounce. On 10/02, it closed at $1498.70/ounce. On 12/6, it closed at $1,464.40/ounce. On 1/17, it closed at $1557.30/ounce. On 2/07, it closed at $1,576.20/ounce. On 3/11, it closed at $1,641/ounce. On 3/18, it is trading at $1,487.60.

Bitcoin was trading at (Repo Commentary Dates):

$8,185.21 on 7/25
$6,350 on 10/5
$3,774.97 on 12/24/18
$3,7774.97 on 01/07
$3,598.90 on 01/16
$3,421.10 on 02/06
$3,826.44 on 02/26
$8,100.00 on 05/16
$7,215.79 on 05/17
$9,088.59 on 06/18
$11,919.30 on 06/25
$9,790.37 on 07/24
$10,183.90 on 09/10
$8,235.46 on 10/02
$7,470.41 on 12/06
$8,876.87 on 01/17/20
$9,793.18 on 02/07/20
$7,871.60 on 03/11/20
$5,216.64 on 03/18/20

After rebounding in 2019 dramatically since the beginning of the year, although certainly not to its $19,000 highs, Bitcoin hit a wall at the beginning of the Summer, rallied during the Summer, and tumbled again in Q4, and had rallied in early in 2020. It has now given up all of those 2020 gains with the coronavirus contagion.

Global Financial News:

Global stock markets suffered their largest single-day decline by percentage and by absolute points on Monday this week. Banks, exchange operators and the Trump Administration are committed to keeping financial markets open during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. Due to Coronavirus concerns and gatherings of traders at the NYSE and other exchanges, Wall Street and the regulators are discussing shortening the hours that the markets are open for trading, at Mnuchin’s suggestion. Reactions have been mixed by market participants, many citing that shortening US market hours would not decrease volatility, given global market hours. If there was ever a reason for having more electronic trading platforms, one would think that the Coronavirus crisis is the perfect example. Three major economist teams (Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and S&P Global) say that the coronavirus pandemic has triggered a global recession. HSBC has named Noel Quinn as CEO. The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has given firms temporary relief from a requirement to record telephone calls with clients, when traders work from home. European banks are assuring investors over pandemic impact. France has replaced its budget with a $384 billion emergency plan. DTCC is suggesting that banks begin using its pilot third-party pooling service to prepare for Basel’s upcoming Risk Factor Eligibility Test. The FDIC is proposing new standards for determining whether to allow non-banks to conduct certain banking activities, such as accepting deposits. The London Metal Exchange will suspend trading in its open-outcry ring for the first time since WWII, switching to electronic price determination next week.

US Market News:

The coronavirus pandemic and various governments’ efforts to contain it are having a dramatic effect on global equity markets. It is most apparent in the volatility of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, lately. One day, it’s down 1000 points, the next day up 1000 points, and the next day down 2000 points. These are huge, and in some cases, record movements, in terms of percentage and actual points. As I write this on 3/18, the DJIA is currently down 2,268.34, and having triggered the circuit breakers. It was up over 1,000 points yesterday, and down a record % and points of over 2,000 points. The stock market is now below the 2017 level before President Trump took office, erasing that large gain during his Administration, for now.

Although the underlying US economic news has been great up to now, the disease is directly impacting certain industries (such as tourism, airlines, cruise ships, conventions/fairs/conferences, food delivery services, health providers, and schools), which may lead to a ripple effect of worsening economic news, due to lower personal income and tax revenues. The ripple effect, in an example is if less people visit a restaurant because of fear of being near many potentially infected people in a large gathering, then the revenue for the restaurant may be such that it has to lay off personnel, who then don’t have the income to buy goods and possibly to pay for coronavirus treatments, and tax revenues from the business decline, worsening the situation for schools and infrastructure, etc. The US economy is built around service to the public who then require certain manufactured goods and then als spend money discretionarily. If discretionary spending is limited physically or fiscally and needs for service industry are reduced, the economy generally will suffer. These virus concerns are countering each country’s fiscal steps to combat the contagion impact. Okay, someone asked for this, here are the latest DJIA closes for the past month, just to demonstrate the massive volatility (granted there have been times in the past where volatility was greater in terms of percentage moves):

3/18/20 18,969.04 current, not closing
3/17/20 21,237.38
3/16/20 20,188.52
3/13/20 23,185.62
3/12/20 21,200.62
3/11/20 23,553.22
3/10/20 25,018.16
3/09/20 23,851.02
3/06/20 25,864.78
3/05/20 26,121.28
3/04/20 27,090.86
3/03/20 25,917.41
3/02/20 26,703.32
2/28/20 25,409.36
2/27/20 25,766.64
2/26/20 26,957.59
2/25/20 27,081.36
2/24/20 27,960.80
2/21/20 28,992.41
2/20/20 29,219.98
2/19/20 29,348.03
2/12/20 29,551.42 record high

The Dow Jones closed at (Repo Commentary Dates):

26,656.77 on 9/20/18
26,447.05 on 10/5/18
21,792.20 on 12/23/18
21,712.53 on 12/26/18
24,207.16 on 01/16/19
25,063.89 on 2/06/19
26,106.47 on 2/25/19
25,862.68 on 5/16/19
26,465.54 on 6/18/19
27,269.97 on 7/24/19
26,793.09 on 9/10/19
26,229.31 on 10/02/19
28,015.06 on 12/06/19
29,348.10 on 01/17/20
29,185.07 on 02/07/20
23,553.22 on 03/11/20
21,237.38 on 03/17/20

S&P 500 has closed on:

10/5/18 at 2,885.58
12/26/18 at 2,467.70
01/07/19 at 2,549.69
01/16/19 at 2,616.10
02/06/19 at 2,706.53
02/25/19 at 2,799.34
05/16/19 at 2,876.32
06/18/19 at 2,917.75
07/24/19 at 3,019.56 new all-time high
09/10/19 at 2,969.04
10/02/19 at 2,906.94
12/06/19 at 3,145.91
01/17/20 at 3,329.62
02/07/20 at 3,335.27 down 10.51 from new all-time high
03/12/20 at 2,480.64
03/17/20 at 2,529.19

Nasdaq too gave up its 8/28/18 high of 8,030.04, closing on:

10/5/18 at 7,788.45
12/26/18 at 6,554.36
01/07/19 at 6,823.47
01/16/19 at 7,034.70
02/06/19 at 7,263.87
02/25/19 at 7,561.87
05/16/19 at 7,898.05
06/18/19 at 7,953.68
07/24/19 at 8,321.50 new all-time high
09/10/19 at 8,043.58
10/02/19 at 7,809.22
12/06/19 at 8,656.07
01/17/20 at 9,388.95
02/07/20 at 9,555.96 down 16.19 from new all-time high
03/12/20 at 7,201.80
03/17/20 at 7,334.78

Bloomberg ran a story Tuesday about how a trade last week caused market illiquidity in US Treasuries and forced the Fed to commit to providing $5 trillion in extra liquidity. The article refers to the US Treasury basis trade, used by leveraged market participants. The trade involves the spread between Treasury futures and the Treasury bonds themselves. If the spread widens, as it did dramatically last week, some leveraged players and some relative value players get crushed the ‘cash-futures basis trade’. As coronavirus cases increased and fears multiplied, investors rushed to ‘safe-haven’ Treasuries. It was easier to rush to Treasury futures and more immediate supply, so they bought futures, rather than cash bonds, driving the spreads much wider. That hurt the leveraged players who use cash borrowed from our Repo market to leverage up positions and returns on selling futures and buying cash bonds. That likely then drew in more ‘real money’ cash from large funds who jumped into the basis trade, as an alternative to putting their money to work in Repo, CP, and foreign exchange forwards. So, that exacerbated the shortage of cash in the Repo market last week, spiking GC repo rates to 2.50%, depsite the Fed lowering the Fed Funds target to 0%-.25%. That, in turn, forced the Fed to dump hundreds of billions of more dollars into the Overnight repo market, even twice in the same day, to try to bring GC repo rates down. But, as I’ve said for years, the Fed adding Reserves through their 24 Primary Dealers, is not always an efficient way to get that extra liquidity to all collateral providers and leveraged players who need it. It depends on what those broker/dealers want to do with the cash and their behavior. So, it was quite a ripple effect from coronavirus and the ‘basis trade’ last week.

2 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.88%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
01/07/19 at 2.53%
01/16/19 at 2.55%
02/06/19 at 2.52%
02/22/19 at 2.48%
05/16/19 at 2.20%
06/18/19 at 1.86%
07/24/19 at 1.83%
09/09/19 at 1.58%
10/01/19 at 1.56%
12/06/19 at 1.61%
01/17/20 at 1.58%
02/06/20 at 1.44%
03/11/20 at 0.50%
03/17/20 at 0.47%

3 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 2.99%
12/18/18 at 2.64%
01/07/19 at 2.47% (inverted to 2years)
01/16/19 at 2.53%
02/06/19 at 2.50%
02/22/19 at 2.46%
05/16/19 at 2.15%
06/18/19 at 1.80%
07/24/19 at 1.79%
09/09/19 at 1.52%
10/01/19 at 1.51%
12/06/19 at 1.64%
01/17/20 at 1.58%
02/06/20 at 1.43%
03/11/20 at 0.58%
03/17/20 at 0.54%

5 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.07%
12/18/18 at 2.65%
01/07/19 at 2.49%
01/16/19 at 2.54%
02/06/19 at 2.51%
02/22/19 at 2.47%
05/16/19 at 2.18%
06/18/19 at 1.83%
07/24/19 at 1.82%
09/09/19 at 1.49%
10/01/19 at 1.51%
12/06/19 at 1.67%
01/17/20 at 1.63%
02/07/20 at 1.45%
03/11/20 at 0.66%
03/17/20 at 0.56%

7 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.18%
12/18/18 at 2.74%
01/07/19 at 2.60%
01/16/19 at 2.62%
02/06/19 at 2.59%
02/22/19 at 2.55%
05/16/19 at 2.28%
06/18/19 at 1.93%
07/24/19 at 1.93%
09/09/19 at 1.57%
10/01/19 at 1.59%
12/06/19 at 1.78%
01/17/20 at 1.74%
02/06/20 at 1.56%
03/11/20 at 0.78%
03/17/20 at 0.91%

10 YEAR NOTES closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.23%
12/18/18 at 2.82%
01/07/19 at 2.70%
01/16/19 at 2.73%
02/06/19 at 2.70%
02/22/19 at 2.65%
05/16/19 at 2.40%
06/18/19 at 2.06%
07/24/19 at 2.05%
09/09/19 at 1.83%
10/01/19 at 1.65% dramatic drop in one month!
12/06/19 at 1.84% dramatic rise in two months!
01/17/20 at 1.84%
02/06/20 at 1.65% and back down again!
03/11/20 at 0.82%
03/17/20 at 1.02% and back up again

30 YEAR BONDS closed on:

10/5/18 at 3.40%
12/18/18 at 3.07%
01/07/19 at 2.99%
01/16/19 at 3.07%
02/06/19 at 3.03%
02/22/19 at 3.02%
05/16/19 at 2.84%
06/18/19 at 2.55%
07/24/19 at 2.58%
09/10/19 at 2.11%
10/01/19 at 2.11%
12/06/19 at 2.29%
01/17/20 at 2.29%
02/06/20 at 2.11%
03/11/20 at 1.30%
03/17/20 at 1.63% way up!

US Treasury yields continued lower in the front-end, but backed up significantly in the long-end, despite the Fed’s continued intervention in the target rate not causing them to move much before that.

Housing News:

New numbers from the National Association of Realtors show that sales of previously owned homes are up by nearly 10% in January, over the same period last year. Yet, although up significantly from last year, the sales were relatively flat from the month before. In fact, most regions showed little or no change from December. Also, home prices have increased on an annual basis for 95 consecutive months. The median existing home price for all housing was $266,300 in January, which is up from $249,400 one year ago. Low mortgage rates appear to have balanced affordability levels, and new home construction is expected by industry analysts to improve this year, which may slow additional home-price increases as the year progresses. If the coronavirus pandemic continues for a lengthy period and reduces wealth significantly, it could have a negative impact on home buying demand and home construction.

Repo News:

So, you saw my description of what happened last week in the cash-basis trade and how it impacted GC repo rates, causing a spike and forcing the Fed to come in to inject cash.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin approved a Financial Crisis-era backstop, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, which will give the 24 primary dealers access for at least 6 months to cash through repos of up to 90 days. The Fed is also actively monitoring the Repo market and committed to provide up to $6 trillion to the Repo market if necessary. They are conducting overnight and term repo operations at least through April. They did an afternoon repo operation on Monday for $19.4 billion and announced another for Tuesday afternoon at the same time. These were in addition to their morning operations. Not only is repo cash from typical cash providers in short supply because of the ‘basis-trade’ blowout, causing GC repo rates to be well-above the Fed’s desired Fed Funds target at least until the afternoon, but also because many of those money funds may have suffered redemptions from investors. Money Funds, as my pal Scott Skyrm points out, supply $1.35 trillion in cash to the funding market each day. One thing to watch is how 3/31 quarter-end goes, particularly in light of how difficult December was before the Fed injected some $255 billion into the repo market for year-end. Currently, the Fed is putting $531 billion into the repo market. Will they have to do MORE on quarter-end? Quarter-end traded at 1.25% on Monday, but came down 35 bp on Tuesday. That Fed Funds target of 0%-0.25% means that we are likely to see some negative repo rates for Treasuries that go Special. That also means we will have to watch those TPMG fails rates.

In the Securities Financing industry, we are again facing a tsunami of acronyms in regulations and events, much like during the Financial Crisis. ESMA is delaying rules on failed trades by 2 more months. LEI rules are being postponed for emerging market securities, as nearly 50% of them still don’t have LEIs. Even 10% of European securities don’t have LEIs.

ESMA’s SFTR Level 3
Brexit
EU Crypto Regs
FCA Crypto Regs
EC Cyber-attack Guidelines
FCA Financial Services Duty of Care Bill/MiFID II
CSDR
LIBOR replacement (SOFR, SOIA, EuSTAR)
EISF
ISLA/ICSF/ESG and short selling
MUR

Well, “repo” is the lubricant of the money market system, particularly the issuance of US Treasuries and other bonds, and it only comes up in conversation among non-participants when the gears start squeaking or fail to function. And, the last time the general public heard about “repo” it was during the Financial Crisis.

I know you’ve seen many articles on the subject of current repo market illiquidity and volatility, I’ve read them too. I think I can summarize them all and add my almost 38 years of experience in the Securities Finance market to lay out the causes and possible solutions. (It looks like the Fed implemented some of my suggested solutions.)

To look at the WHY, one need look at what has happened since the Financial Crisis.

¥ The regulators, particularly the Federal Reserve, instituted emergency liquidity programs for different sectors of the money market (CP, Corporate Bonds, Broker/Dealers, GSEs, etc.). They eventually unwound those many programs.
¥ They opened up for a brief time the Discount Window to more participants and without the previous stigma attached, for collateral providers to access cash.
¥ They put FNMA and FHLMC into conservatorship.
¥ They began easing Monetary Policy massively for years.
¥ They began Quantitative Easing and built up the Fed’s balance sheet to $4.5 trillion. They added to it by buying more securities every month from the paydowns on their MBS portfolio.
¥ They propped up some broker/dealers, allowed some to fail, and helped others to consolidate/merge.
¥ The Repo Market shrunk in the US from about $7 trillion to $3 trillion, before recent increase to about $3.6 trillion.
¥ Regulators instituted mountains of new reforms, especially the 310 new rules of Dodd-Frank, globally to decrease the likelihood of systemic risk in the financial system and to force, particularly the broker/dealers and GSIB banks to hold more capital/reserves for liquidity.
¥ The market began looking for alternatives to financing through broker/dealers via CCPs, peer-to-peer financing, Sponsored Repo, and electronic trading platforms. (I’ll be discussing this more at the IMN Conference.)
¥ The Fed began its much hailed RRP program, which added over 300 cash providers from the Repo market to finance the Fed’s balance sheet and provide ‘liquidity’ for those cash providers.
¥ The Fed stopped QE and began reducing their balance sheet down to $2.5 trillion.
¥ The US Treasury began ramping up issuance to the tune of about $1 trillion more, which is funneled through the 24 primary broker/dealers and the central banks.
¥ The Fed began tightening monetary policy and tinkering with new measures of repo rates and LIBOR replacement. They also began tinkering with the Interest on Excess Reserves (IOER) from banks and credit unions, to try to create higher reserves.
¥ The Fed did an about face and began easing monetary policy. They also lowered IOER. They now raised IOER by 5bp in the last FOMC meeting.
That’s not everything that happened, but that gives you the broad strokes. And just in those bullet points, I see many of the contributing factors of the recent dislocation of the repo market. And, by the way, that actually refutes Mr. Memani’s later comment that “Nothing much has happened in the money markets since financial crisis.” A lot more happened in those 11 years than happened in the previous 26 years that I was in the money markets.

I believe the reasons we had dislocations last quarter come down to a major imbalance of bank reserves, behavior not consistent with expectation, illiquidity in the repo market (rather than the highly touted increase in liquidity), concentration risk, a corporate tax date that removed cash from the repo market, humongous new supply of US treasuries being issued, many Repo market participants out of the Federal Reserve direct loop, and a mountain of hundreds of new regulations that broker/dealers (and others) are trying to still absorb and position reserves/capital, personnel, and trading strategies for.

I’m not sure why participants and regulators didn’t foresee an imbalance (lack of) bank reserves. The piles of new regulations that regulators gave to the money markets fundamentally required banks to hold more reserves versus balance sheets (which repo is the major contributor to), the low yields may have encouraged banks to use reserves elsewhere in more profitable areas than repo (they are profit-motivated, as they should be), and the Fed lowered the IOER which may have dis-incented banks from depositing reserves at the Fed. The decrease in the Fed’s balance sheet came at the cost of the market absorbing those securities. The US Treasury issuing phenomenal amounts of securities that have to be taken by the 24 primary dealers (already full up on balance sheets they are trying to reduce) and the central banks/swfs (who already have $14 trillion of US Treasuries), should have been seen as a potential clog in the system. Plus, with the Fed lowering rates, the returns on those US Treasuries would be lower for those new owners. And the central banks ownership of US Treasuries is another complicated story, one of ripple effects. They can’t really sell US Treasuries into this market, without having some issue with the US Government, whichever branch. But, yet, many of them need to support their currency, particularly against the US Dollar. So, some of them enter the Repo market to repo the US Treasuries to receive US Dollars to then buy their own currencies with, propping up their currency by kicking the can somewhat down the road, until their GDP rises or oil prices rise (raising their specific GDP). Layer over that macroeconomic soup a topping of trade wars and tariffs, it becomes rather complex to predict. And, that brings me to my last observation, that unintended consequences arose from the hundreds of regulations foisted on the money market, mainly because market behavior is not that predictive. Regulators thought that if they made the system safer, more investors would come in, but yet the repo market didn’t grow that much, but yet supply from the Fed and from the US Treasury increased dramatically. Regulators thought that if the banks had more reserves and capital, they would pass that on to the buyside, but that didn’t take into account their profit motivations and individual bank idiosyncrasies. Lastly, the regulators didn’t expect the perfect storm of added supply, taxes withdrawn, cash out of the system, reserves lower, and tools that would work directly only on the 24 primary dealers and the 300 cash providers in RRP. I’ve been remarking for years, since the RRP, that there was not a comparable program for collateral providers/leveraged players in the Repo market. Steve Malekian went further to say, a year ago, that the newly touted liquidity of the Repo market was “only for Platinum accounts.” It was only for select buy-side clients.

I’m looking at this list that I wrote a few months ago as suggestions for the Fed to handle issues then, even before the coronavirus outbreak. It’s interesting how many of my suggestions the Fed has actually implemented now for the coronavirus crisis.

So, the Fed needs to do something. And, I don’t mean just the Overnight operations with the 24 primary dealers. I can’t even predict what those dealers’ positions are or how the added liquidity would flow to the buyside clients. The extra cash could be used to fund their Swaps desk, the Repo Desk, other outright traders, Platinum accounts, or speculatively with leveraged accounts (as a few savvy broker/dealers have seen that opportunity and gone short to reverse in at higher rates from leveraged accounts and supply balance sheet). The point is that the mound of regulations and the open market operations and the tinkering with the IOER are supposed to impact banks and broker/dealers in such a way to induce certain behavior, but behavior is unique. So, the Fed needs to go back to its ample toolkit (and get people who have been there at least 10 years) to:
¥ Implement more term RPs, to give the market some faith and reduce Fed reputational risk
¥ Purchase securities, either US Treasuries or Agency MBS, increasing the Fed balance sheet (although this may be difficult because there were probably several good reasons why they decreased it.)
¥ Open the Discount Window to more participants, with NO stigma attached (it used to be how one in the market knew who was having a liquidity crisis), and other sectors represented.
¥ Create a collateral provider facility, similar to RRP, or help reduce the hurdles, like CCLF for CCPs and Sponsored Repo type ventures to increase liquidity.
¥ Tinker the IOER rate UP, rather than down, to increase the Reserves at the Fed.
¥ Support/encourage Repo done outside of the 24 primary dealers, helping collateral providers find cash providers, when certain broker/dealers are balance sheet full and capital restrained from the very regulations that the Fed was involved in. I hope that didn’t come out too angry. I think systemic risk reduction is a huge priority and I am worried about firesale risk (although I don’t think moving the sale down the road to 7 days or 30 days changes firesale risk, it just changes the date of the firesale).
¥ Have the Fed be a permanent backstop to the Repo market.
The bottom line is that the money markets, particularly the securities finance market (Repo & Securities Lending) is still trying to find its footing, particularly as the Repo market has shrunk, while Treasury supply has increased.

I still see the Repo and Securities Lending market as having changed in many permanent ways. We traditionally had a credit intermediator, the broker/dealers (originally just the primary broker/dealers) and later prime brokers, who were the pipeline through their respective repo matched books for ALL collateral providers to trade with cash providers, without the two sides ever knowing about each other or facing each other. That lack of knowledge of the other side of the dealers’ repo matched book came at a couple of costs, first, the bid/offer spread that went to the dealers, which has been volatile but certainly widened since the Financial Crisis, and second, the defaults of the Financial Crisis, which not only subjected clients to dealer defaults and wider spreads, but in many cases directly impacted clients by making them suddenly the outright traders of repo collateral. Some of that collateral, on top of it, was very illiquid. Not knowing who the other clients were on the other side of the dealers’ repo matched book, and who could potentially bring down those intermediary dealers was costly for many clients. Clearly, with that pipeline of is intermediation becoming severely crimped by post-Financial Crisis regulatory reforms, consolidation and bankruptcies, and the resulting drop of about 60% in balance sheets (which has recovered partially with new entrants to the market and international banks’ increases due to regulatory arbitrage) being used for broker/dealer respective repo matched books, new pathways/pipelines needed to be explored for cash provider and collateral provider clients. My former baby, AVM’s Direct Repo™, was the first of one of such pathways, over 10 years ago. Since then, many other liquidity pathways to these markets have been created, including: the Federal Reserve’s RRP program with cash providers, peer-to-peer financing as reported on Treasury OFR’s website between MMFs and Insurance Companies, As Agented repo through seclending agents and some prime brokers to buyside clients, direct lending from beneficial owners to hedge funds who are short via their agents, indemnified As Agent repo, buyside to buyside Triparty Repo through two international clearing organizations of their custodial clients, electronic all-to-all repo on a few electronic trading platforms like (BNY DBVX, State Street’s Cash Cross), FICC’s sponsored repo and cleared repo products for certain sectors of the buyside into that CCP, dealer to dealer and some clients electronic trading platforms (like GLMX, HQLAx, LMX, BNY DBVX, DealerWeb, and Tradeweb), other Repo and/or Seclending CCPs (like Eurex, LCH Clearnet, OCC, FICC, CDCC, and SCH), total return swaps platforms (like WeMatch.com), and collateralized loan exchanges (like AFX/CBOE.) There have still been other firms that have created some kind of product that mimics a repo, but yet doesn’t show up on dealers’ balance sheets (so helps them), and/or provides better credit counterparties (so helps clients), and can take many forms. I believe this overall evolution will continue and eventually we will see all of these pathways used in some part, including the traditional pathway (to probably a lesser than historical degree) through the broker/dealers and prime brokers. Some of that balance sheet has returned, as I mentioned above, but maybe for only select ‘platinum’ clients and may come at a higher bid/offer spread or in specific, more profitable products/securities, as other market observers/experts have said.

Having just moderated a panel at the IMN Securities Financing Conference 2/12-2/13/20, my panel and I were able to share with the audience the current state of ETPs, CCPs, and P2P securities financing, and painted, in no particular order, a current map below (this is based on what we have been able to ascertain, but may not be accurate or complete):

CCPs:

Europe
• Eurex/Deutsche Borse/Clearstream (CCP)-has been doing predominantly European governments repo for some time now.
• LCH-Clearnet-London (CCP)-I do not have any info yet.
• LCH-Clearnet-Paris (CCP)-split out years ago, not because of Brexit.

Asia

• Shanghai Clearing House-China (CCP). I do not have any info yet.
North America

• OCC (CCP)-has hit daily volumes of $80 billion of repo and outright trading, with futures and options as well. It also still owns AQS/Quadriserve (ETP) for US securities lending.
• FICC/DTCC (CCP)-has hit high volume of $552 billion, increases coming from the 3 participant banks in Sponsored Repo, bringing their clients into the CCP, along with their standard dealer vs dealer repo. Has been around a while now.
• CDCC-Canada (CCP)-brand new CCP involving derivatives and repo.
CCPs:

Europe

• WeMatch.com (ETP)-fairly new, trades total return swaps.
• HQLAx (ETP)-securities financing, just started, uses blockchain tokens to represent trades.
• Liquidity Marketplace-LMX (ETP), I do not have any info yet.
• Asterisk (ETP)-brand new, focused first on government securities and equities financing.
• Treasury Spring (ETP)-fairly new, focused on European asset managers.

North America

• GLMX (ETP)-a Silicon Valley solution, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
• TradeWeb (ETP)-longtime system, primarily dealers and some asset managers.
• BNY DBVX (ETP)-fairly new and has changed, for internal BNY Mellon clients now.
• DealerWeb (ETP)-primarily for dealers.
• AFX/CBOE (ETP)-trades collateralized loans and futures.
• State Street Direct Access (ETP)-fairly new, has started securities financing for internal State Street clients.
One of many developments that I thought was really cool to hear about at the IMN conference (among other things I will share with you over time in the Repo Commentary or in consultation), was the newly formed Global Peer Financing Association created by 4 of my larger pension fund clients (CALPERS, HOOPP, OHPERS, SWIB) to promote peer-to-peer financing, not only among pension funds, but potentially with other sectors too (such as SWFs, Central Banks, Insurance Companies). It is of course near-and-dear to my heart, as I had many discussions with all 4 about peer-to-peer securities financing, over the past decade. I am very happy to see this development, which includes rate negotiation, standardization of legal documents, a credit vendor’s service, and some indemnification for certain clients from a securities lending agent. I am very supportive of this effort and hope to be involved in its evolution.

Securities Finance Industry Conferences: (subject to coronavirus-related postponements or cancellations)
 

• Deutsche Borse/Clearstream/Securities Lending Times held their annual GFF Summit in Luxembourg, 1/28-1/30/20, which I attended two years ago.
• IMN 26th Beneficial Owners International Securities Finance conference will be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL on 2/12-2/13/20. I was the Chairperson in 2019 and will be a moderator this year. I hope to see many of you there!
• iMoneyNet/Informa has yet to announce its annual MMExpo, after the merger. I have spoken at this one several times.
• PASLA/RMA will hold its 17th annual Conference on Asian Securities Lending in Tokyo, Japan on 3/3-3/5/20.
• GIOA will hold its 16th annual conference in Las Vegas 3/18-3/20/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one. I may attend.
• Crane Data will hold its annual Bond Fund Symposium in Boston, MA on 3/23-3/24/20.
• IHS Markit will hold its annual Securities Finance Forum in London, England on 3/24/20.
• Finadium will hold its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference in NYC on 5/13-5/14/20. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
• GFOA will hold its gigantic 114th (wow!) annual conference in Los Angeles on 5/17-5/20/20. I have attended this one in the past.
• IMN/AFME will hold its annual Global Bank ABS (West) conference in Barcelona, Spain on 6/16-6/18/20.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders USA Summit in Nashville, TN on 6/8-6/10/20.
• ISLA will hold its 29th Annual Securities Finance and Collateral Management conference in Vienna, Austria on 6/23-6/25/20. I have spoken (and sung) at this one before.
• ICMA/Securities Lending Times will hold their annual AGM and conference also in Vienna, Austria, on 6/24-6/26/20.
• Crane Data will hold its annual Money Fund Symposium on 6/24-6/26/20 in Minneapolis, MN. I heard there were 580 attendees in Boston last year. I have spoken at this conference before.
• National Association of State Treasurers will hold its annual conference in San Diego, CA on 9/13-9/16/20. I’ve spoken and sung at this one.
• IMN will hold its annual European Securities Finance conference in London, England on 9/15-9/16/20. I’ve attended this before.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income & FX Leader Summit in Singapore on 9/22-9/24/20.
• IMN will hold its annual ABS East conference in Miami Beach, FL on 10/5-10/7/20. I’ve attended this before and might again.
• Worldwide Business Research will hold its annual Fixed Income Leaders 2020 conference in Barcelona, Spain on 10/12-10/14/20.
• RMA will hold its 38th annual Conference on Securities Finance and Collateral Management in Amelia Island, FL on October 12-15. I saw many of you last year in Boca Raton. It was my 37th RMA I’ve attended.
• Crane Data has yet to announce its annual European Money Fund Symposium.
• Finadium has yet to announce its 4th annual Investors in Securities Lending Conference Europe.
• American Financial Professionals (AFP) will hold its large annual conference in Las Vegas, NV on 10/18-10/21/20.
• Finadium has yet to announce its Rates & Repo conference in New York. I’ve spoken and sponsored this one.
• Risk.net has yet to announce its 26th annual Risk USA conference. I’ve chaired this one.
• SIFMA has yet to announce its annual Meeting.

Federal Reserve News:

The Fed Funds rate, which is still the target rate of Federal Reserve monetary policy and changes to which are made by and announced by the FOMC at regularly scheduled meetings, is currently set at 1.50-1.75% (remember, the Fed has been using a target ‘range’ for a while), after the FOMC lowered it on 7/31/19 and again on 9/18/19 and again on 12/4/19. The Effective Fed Funds Rate (EFFR), as reported by the Federal Reserve, was 1.88% on 10/1/19.

For you youngsters, particularly the ones freaking out about the Fed doing daily RP operations, the Federal Reserve used to not telegraph what it was doing in monetary policy. It would simply come in (and not on scheduled dates like FOMC meetings) and add or drain reserves by announcing a Customer RP, System RP, or Matched Sales. We would then all scramble, as the market absorbed the news, and try to figure out how much they did and where the Fed Funds rate would settle.

The Overnight Bank Funding Rate (OBFR), is also published by the NY Fed to capture the volume-weighted median of overnight federal funds transactions, Eurodollar transactions, and the domestic deposits reported by banks. That rate on 2/6/20 was 1.58%.

The Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) is supposed to be a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight collateralized by US Treasury securities. It is also reported by the NY Fed on its website. It has been controversial and has been considered as a possible replacement for LIBOR. SOFR includes trades in the Broad General Collateral Rate of Repo plus bilateral Treasury Repo transactions cleared through the DVP services at CCP FICC, ostensibly filtering out issues trading Special. However, critics (and I am one) say that it only picks up the Offered Side of Repo (not a median), that it only picks up the small amount of DVP transactions cleared at FICC and Triparty Repo done at Bank of NY, ignoring the growing amount of bilateral (non-Triparty) repo being done peer-to-peer, dealer-to-dealer, and client-to-dealer, outside of FICC. It is a good representation of where Money Funds (except for a few savvy ones who trade peer-to-peer) are paid on their cash versus US Treasuries in Repo each day by broker/dealers. It almost completely ignores other sectors, particularly buyside clients with collateral. That all being said, the current SOFR reported by the Fed for 2/07/20 was 1.59%.

The next FOMC meetings (and they are all two-day meetings so these are the second day, when they actually announce) are: 3/18/20, 4/29/20, 6/10/20, 7/29/20, 9/16/20, 11/5/20, and 12/16/20.

The Federal Reserve’s Reverse Repo Facility (RRP), which has over 300 approved participants (mostly banks, GSEs, and MMFs) is used as a tool by the Federal Reserve, along with its Fed Funds target-setting monetary policy, and IOER for depository institutions, to help control short-term interest rates. The Fed is currently only repoing out US Treasuries from its portfolio and typically only Overnight. Remember when RRP was trading at year-end for $465 billion? Well, on 5/15/19, there was only $20 million in bids submitted. MMF cash and GSE cash has moved out of the Fed’s RRP and into the Repo market. So, if RRP is not extinct, it is certainly now dormant, occasionally coming out of hibernation for year-ends and quarter-ends, when liquidity becomes very strange.

In December 2018, at the FOMC meeting, the Federal Reserve signaled that it would raise the benchmark Fed Funds rate to 2.50% at the December FOMC meeting, 3.00% in 2019, and 3.50% in 2020. If you are keeping score, the Federal Reserve raised the Fed Funds target rate on these dates so far:

12/15/15 to 0.50%
12/14/16 to 0.75%
3/5/17 to 1.00%
6/14/17 to 1.25%
12/13/17 to 1.50%
3/21/18 to 1.75%
6/13/18 to 2.00%
9/26/18 to 2.25%
12/13/18 to 2.50%

But, then the Federal Reserve paused. Suddenly, on 7/31/19, the Fed eased the Fed Funds target rate to 2.25%, and then did another rate cut by 0.25% to 2.00% on 9/17/19. Technically, that rate is the top end of a 25bp rate spread that the Fed considers its current target rate (1.75%-2.00%). The reversal in monetary policy is expected to continue, with perhaps one more rate cut by the Fed in 2019. The FOMC actually held an unscheduled meeting on 10/4/19, but did not change monetary policy at that meeting. But, on 12/11/19, the Fed, somewhat expectedly, lowered the Fed Funds target range to 1.50-1.75%, down another 25bp. They only raised the IOER by 5bp on 1/29, but didn’t change the Fed target rate. On 3/3/20, because of the global financial crisis effect from the coronavirus crisis, the Fed held an emergency FOMC meeting and cut the Fed target rate 50bp to 1.00-1.25%.

Quantitative Easing was ‘tapered off’ in 2013. The Fed still had $4 trillion of debt in 2017 on its books from that QE. In October 2017, it began allowing those holdings to gradually decline. For reference, the Fed Funds target rate was 5.25% before the Fed cut of 9/18/2007, at or near the beginning of the Financial Crisis.

Just as the Federal Reserve felt it had done enough recently to provide liquidity to the Repo market and enough to Monetary Policy, a global pandemic has hit. On 3/4/20, the FRB approved a rule to simplify its capital rules for large banks, still preserving the strong capital requirements already in place. On 3/5/20, the FRB announced the termination of enforcement actions. It also postponed its 2020 National Interagency Community Reinvestment Conference because of coronavirus. On 3/6/20, the FRB published the Community Reinvestment Act. On 3/9/20, the Fed and other Governmental agencies encouraged financial institutions to meet financial needs of customers and members affected by coronavirus. The FOMC chose to have an unscheduled meeting and press conference on 3/3/20 (sort of like the old days), because of the coronavirus crisis. The FOMC set the Interest on Excess Reserves Rate (IOER) target to 1.10%, effective on 3/4/20. They also voted to authorize and direct the Open Market Desk at the FRB NY, until instructed otherwise, to execute transactions in the System Open Market Account (SOMA) as necessary to maintain the Fed Funds rate in a target of 1.00%-1.25%, down 50bp. The FOMC also instructed the Fed to continue purchasing Treasury bills at least into Q2 of 2020, to maintain over time ample reserve balances at or above the level that prevailed in early September 2019 (before the liquidity problems of year-end). The FOMC also directed the FRB to continue conducting term and O/N repo operations at least through April 2020 to ensure ample supply of reserves. The FOMC also directed the desk to conduct overnight Reverse Repo operations at an offering rate of 1.00% in amounts limited only by the value of Treasury securities in its SOMA account that are available for such operations and up to a per-counterparty limit of $30 billion per day. If that wasn’t enough, the FOMC also directed the desk to continue to reinvest P&I from MBS securities it owns in Treasury securities, up to $20 billion per month, and to engage in Dollar Rolls and Coupon Swap transactions as necessary to facilitate the market.

Former Fed chiefs, Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen, said the coronavirus-induced challenges are different from those of the Financial Crisis, and the Fed must identify and address them.
The US Treasury Department is making $10 billion available to support businesses’ liquidity through outright purchases of CP issued by highly rated companies. The CP Funding Facility will be managed by the Federal Reserve Bank of NY.

The Fed is encouraging banks to use capital buffers imposed by regulations to loan to borrowers hit by the coronavirus pandemic, but the Fed needs to clarify what is permitted.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes:

Wednesday morning, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake hit near Salt Lake City, Utah, knocking out the state’s Coronavirus hotline. It was the state’s largest earthquake since 1992. Other earthquakes above 4.5-magnitude, in the last 2 days:

03/18 4.5 Magna, Utah
03/18 5.7 Magna, Utah
03/18 6.3 Bali, Indonesia
03/18 4.9 central Mid-Atlantic Ridge
03/18 5.0 off the east coast of north island of New Zealand
03/18 5.0 northern Alaska
03/18 5.5 Santa Cruz Islands
03/18 4.9 Fiji region
03/18 4.6 Molucca Sea
03/18 6.1 Vanuatu
03/18 5.4 north of Halmahera, Indonesia
03/17 4.5 Fiji region
03/17 6.0 Samoa Islands region
03/17 5.0 eastern Sea of Japan
03/17 4.6 Kuril Islands
03/17 5.6 offshore Bio-Bio, Chile
03/17 4.5 Mindoro, Philippines
03/17 4.6 western Xizang

Weather:

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. For the 2019 storm season, CSU, which has been the most used, forecast a near-average season of 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. It turned out to be the 4th year in a row of above-average damaging seasons. We had 18 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. It became the 7th year that there were multiple Category-5 hurricanes in one season.

The Pacific Hurricane Season starts 5/1/20 and ends 11/1/20.

As for the weather, Florida is getting hotter and luckily they haven’t ‘closed’ the beaches, although they don’t want more than 10 people to congregate together. We are in the mid-80s already and very sunny. I hear that the Midwest has risen to the 40s. But there is a storm right in that region, as well as rain in the Southwest. Just north of Los Angeles is a wildfire, forcing people to evacuate. They could use some of that rain to put out the fire.

Sports News:

MLB:

The 2019 MLB regular season began 3/28 last year and ended on 9/30 (more than 6 months). The World Series went 7 games, and the Washington Nationals, who were in the Postseason for the first time, beat the Houston Astros, who had won the World Series in 2017, 4 games to 3 games. The cool thing, from my perspective, is that they share the same brand new Spring Training facility right here in West Palm Beach, FL, and I sing the National Anthem for both teams several times during Spring Training, and I auditioned for both 2020 Spring Training for the Cardinals, Marlins, Astros, and Nationals. So, I’ve already had the honor to sing 3 National Anthems and “God Bless America”s this year, and I have at least 3 more to sing at. That will bring my total of MLB games, since 2003, to 156. I have noticed that the Astros’ games have had more players getting booed by the home crowd, hit by opposing pitchers, and even banging on trash cans. One amusing incident in their home park was when fans brought signs calling the Astros cheaters for their admitted sign-stealing electronically in 2017, when they won the World Series, and the Astros’ ballpark security took the signs from the fans. They just can’t help themselves from stealing signs! Lol! One clever fan got a sign through that said “Try Stealing This Sign!”

We were about halfway through Spring Training. For the third year in a row, all 30 MLB teams were to be in action at the start of the season on the same day, March 26th. But, the Coronavirus put an end to Spring Training and has delayed the start of the 2020 MLB regular season. It has also suspended all levels of MLB Minor League games. The 3 remaining Spring Training games that I was to sing the National Anthem at were also cancelled. All 30 MLB teams, today, each pledged $1 million to pay ballpark employees who aren’t able to work, until the season can open.

Golf:

Tyrell Hatton, from England, won the PGA’s Arnold Palmer Invitational this last Sunday. It was his first PGA Tour title and it was followed by major drinking. He teed off in the first round, last Thursday, in the Players Championship though. The PGA Tour is going forward with this Major’s first round, on schedule, at Ponte Vedra (TPC Sawgrass and the island green). But, then it cancelled the tournament before Friday’s Round 2 and cancelled 5 other tournaments to come. It also announced that it was postponing the Masters in Augusta.

The European Tour’s Hero Indian Open, scheduled for this week, has been postponed due to coronavirus concerns, as have all other scheduled tournaments. The European Tour schedule for 2020 season:

¥ 11/28-12/1/19 Hong Kong Open
¥ 11/28-12/1/19 Alfred Dunhill Championship
¥ 12/5-12/8/19 Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open
¥ 12/19-12/22/19 Australian PGA Championship
¥ 1/9-1/12/20 South African Open
¥ 1/16-1/19 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
¥ 1/23-1/26 Omega Dubai Desert Classic
¥ 1/30-2/2 Saudi International
¥ 2/6-2/9 ISPS Handa Vic Open
¥ 2/20-2/23 WGC-Mexico Championship
¥ 2/27-3/1 Oman Open
¥ 3/5-3/8 Commercial Bank Qatar Masters
¥ 3/12-3/15 Magical Kenya
¥ 3/19-3/22 Hero Indian Open
¥ 3/25-3/29 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
¥ 4/9-4/12 The Masters
¥ 4/16-4/19 Maybank Championship
¥ 4/23-4/26 Volvo China Open
¥ 4/30-5/3 Estrella D. Andalucia Masters
¥ 5/9-5/10 GolfSixes Cascals
¥ 5/14-5/17 US PGA Championship
¥ 5/21-5/24 Made in Denmark
¥ 5/28-5/31 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open
¥ 6/4-6/7 Trophee Hassan II
¥ 6/11-6/14 Scandinavian Invitation
¥ 6/18-6/21 US Open
¥ 6/25-6/28 BMW International Open
¥ you have to believe that I had no idea this would be so long and that I just wanted to be helpful/informational…
¥ 7/2-7/5 Open de France
¥ 7/2-7/5 WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational
¥ 7/9-7/12 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open
¥ 7/16-7/19 The 149th Open (British Open)
¥ 7/30-8/2 Betfred British Masters
¥ 7/30-8/2 Olympic Men’s Golf Competition
¥ 8/6-8/9 UK event
¥ 8/20-8/23 D+D Real Czech Masters
¥ 8/27-8/30 Omega European Masters
¥ 9/3-9/6 Porsche European Open
¥ at least I can keep this in the Commentary and just update it for the next year…
¥ 9/10-9/13 BMW PGA Championship
¥ 9/17-9/20 KLM Open
¥ 9/25-9/27 The 2020 Ryder Cup
¥ 10/1-10/4 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
¥ 10/8-10/11 Italian Open
¥ 10/15-10/18 Mutuactivos Open de Espana
¥ 10/22-10/25 Portugal Masters
¥ 10/29-11/1 WGC-HSC Champions
¥ 11/5-11/8 Turkish Airlines Open
¥ 11/12-11/15 Nedbank Golf Challenge
¥ 11/19-11/22 DP World Tour Championship

NFL:

The 100th NFL season ended last year, in Miami, in an entertaining 31-20 comeback victory for the Kansas City Chiefs over the San Francisco 49ers. The Chiefs had not won a Super Bowl since Super Bowl IV, 52 years ago, snapping the longest drought of any NFL team. Teams are now focused on the Free Agency start date of 3/18/20 and the Draft Day after that. The Bengals have the No.1 pick in the Draft. On Tuesday, Patriots 20-year QB and GOAT, Tom Brady, announced that his NFL journey would continue elsewhere and he is believed to be signing in Free Agency with the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Bucs will likely give up on current starting QB Jameis Winston, as had been expected. Now, the Patriots are in dire need of a QB, and, luckily there are plenty to choose from in Free Agency or trade, and many to choose from in this year’s Draft. Quarterbacks, in fact, are the biggest dominoes in the 2020 NFL Free Agency, with Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Dak Prescott, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, and possibly Cam Newton hitting the market. Brees will probably be re-signed by the Saints and Prescott has already been franchise-tagged by the Cowboys. Newton is not eligible to be a Free Agent, but he is rumored to be on the trading block. Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson and wife Ciara are donating 1 million meals to Seattle food banks.

The XFL 2020 season begins began, 12 weeks beginning in February 8th, and running through April. There were to be 43 games, including playoffs which would determine the champion of the restarted 8-team football league. The XLF East includes the D.C. Defenders, New York Guardians, St. Louis Battlehawks, and Tampa Bay Vipers. The XLF West includes the Dallas Renegades, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats, and Seattle Dragons. Fox, ABC and ESPN will carry all the games. If you are missing football that much, you will recognize some former college and NFL players. That all stopped, when the NFL cancelled the season for the safety of the fans and the players, because of Coronavirus.

Tennis

In a surprise move to all of the Tennis Tours (ATP, FFT, WTA), French Open officials announced Tuesday night that the French Open, the red clay Major, will be postponed from May 24th to late September, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The late change may cause the French Open’s biggest winner, with 12 French Open titles, Rafael Nadal, to boycott the tournament. Apparently, the decision from leftfield by the Federation Francaise de Tennis was made without consultation with other stakeholders. There may be a schedule ripple effect on the US Open, which is currently scheduled to finish just a week before, so the French Open may lose players, and the Laver Cup, which was supposed to be played in the same week that the French Open is moving to. The potential boycott from Nadal comes, not only because he may also choose to play in the US Open instead, but also because he and Roger Federer are the ones who champion the Laver Cup exhibition team competition, with the leading players of the world, a fan favorite. Federer is actually more likely now to skip the French Open, as he is returning from knee surgery at Wimbledon, and has been leaning away from clay tournaments. If enough top-ranked players skip the French Open, can it still be considered a ‘Major’? The WTA suspended its tour until 5/2, amid the coronavirus outbreak. The ATP suspended its matches for six weeks.

Olympics

The head of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics insists that the Games are on track, despite the Coronavirus outbreak.

Soccer

Soccer’s 2020 European Championship, scheduled for Russia, has been postponed for a year because of the outbreak of the virus among the Norwegian and Swedish football associations, on Tuesday.

Cricket

In cricket, the Women’s T20 World Cup concluded with Australia defeating India in the Final. Player of the Match was Alyssa Healy.

NCAA Football:

After about 100 bowl games (it seems) over many weeks, the College Football Playoffs came down to 4 teams: No.1 and unbeaten LSU made easy work of No.4 Oklahoma 63-28 on 12/28, and No.3 Clemson won a close battle over No.2 Ohio State 29-23, on the same day. That left LSU to play Clemson for College Football National Championship, which they did this week on Monday. Despite LSU playing in the New Orleans Superdome (so, a home field/crowd advantage), and having the Heisman Trophy-winning QB Joe Burrow, they were down in the 2nd quarter 17-7 to Clemson star QB Trevor Lawrence, but came roaring back by halftime, and won 42-25, winning their first National Title since 2007. Seven LSU players already are entering the NFL Draft. Clemson won the National Title last year and this was their 4th time in 5 years of being in the Finals. Virginia Tech’s Fuente is out of running to coach Baylor. LSU’s coach Ed Orgeron won Bryant Award as top college coach. To pour salt in my wounds, underachieving Michigan State’s legendary coach, Dantonio, has retired. Coronavirus has caused the NCAA to cancel all spring men’s and women’s sports.

Here is the post-bowls, final AP Top 25 Poll:

1. LSU 13-0
2. Clemson 14-1
3. Ohio State 13-1
4. Georgia 12-2
5. Oregon 12-2
6. Florida 11-2
7. Oklahoma 12-2
8. Alabama 11-2
9. Penn State 11-2
10. Minnesota 11-2
11. Wisconsin 10-4
12. Notre Dame 11-2
13. Baylor 11-3
14. Auburn 9-4
15. Iowa 10-3
16. Utah 11-3
17. Memphis 12-2
18. Michigan 9-4
19. Appalachian State 13-1
20. Navy 11-2
21. Cincinnati 11-3
22. Air Force 11-2
23. Boise State 12-2
24. UCF 10-3
25. Texas 8-5

NCAA Hockey

Near the halfway point of the college hockey season, analysts were seeing Cornell University (my alma mater) and North Dakota as legitimate national title contenders to be in the Frozen Four. Cornell is currently ranked No.1 in the nation. That all froze, when the NCAA cancelled the college hockey season due to the Coronavirus.

NCAA Basketball

The Coronavirus is having a huge impact on college basketball. As teams entered their week of Conference Championship Tournaments, prior to the Committee’s decision on the 68 seeds for the National Championship (also known as March Madness), it all came to halt. One after another conference cancelled their tournaments and the NCAA cancelled the National Championship, before it every started.

Here was the current AP Top 25 for the regular season:

1. Kansas 28-3
2. Gonzaga 29-2
3. Dayton 29-2
4. FSU 26-5
5. Baylor 26-4
6. San Diego State 30-2
7. Creighton 24-7
8. Kentucky 25-6
9. Michigan State 22-9
10. Duke 25-6
11. Villanova 24-7
12. Maryland 24-7
13. Oregon 24-7
14. Brigham Young 24-7
15. Louisville 24-7
16. Seton Hall 21-9
17. Virginia 23-7
18. Wisconsin 21-10
19. Ohio State 21-10
20. Auburn 25-6
21. Illinois 21-10
22. West Virginia 21-10
23. Houston 23-8
24. Butler 22-9
25. Iowa 20-11

NHL:

Last season ended in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals on 6/12, when the St. Louis Blues beat my Bruins 4-3 in the Finals. The puck dropped on this season on 10/2/19.

We were approaching the long postseason, after 82 games, which should have ended again in June, and here were the current standings. In the Eastern Conference: in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins are in first with a smoking 44-14-12 record (best in NHL with 100 points) after breaking the Flyers win streak of 9 games Tuesday night on Tuuka Rask’s birthday, with the Lightning in second (tied for 2nd best record); in the Metropolitan Division, the Capitals are in first with a 41-20-8 record ( tied for 3rd best in the NHL), followed by the Flyers in second. In the Western Conference: in the Central Division, the Stanley Cup Champion Blues are in first place at 41-19-10 (tied for 2nd best in NHL), followed by the Avalanche in second (tied for 3rd best in NHL) and the surprising Stars in third; in the Pacific Division, the Golden Knights lead with a 39-24-8 record, and the Golden Knights are just ahead of the Oilers in second place. The Canucks, who had been leading the Division through most of the season, have dropped to 4th place. The worst team in the NHL continues to be the Red Wings, boasting a dreadful 17-49-5 record. This too, all came to an end, with the season at least being suspended, with no games to be played for a while.

NBA:

This year, the NBA season did not start until 10/22/19, 18 days later than last year. We were nearing the playoffs. Coronavirus is having an impact on the NBA now, as the League suspended the NBA regular season indefinitely.

There was only a little over a month left in the 2019-20 NBA regular season and teams were still jockeying for a playoff position. The current standings are: Eastern Conference has No.1 Bucks, No.2 Raptors, No.3 Celtics, No.4 Heat, No.5 Pacers, No.6 76ers, and the rest are well behind; Western Conference has No.1 Lakers, No.2 Clippers, No.3 Nuggets, No.4 Jazz, No.5 Thunder, No.6 Rockets, and No.7 Mavs, and the rest are well behind.

Among several other NBA players (including 4 from the Nets), Kevin Durant tested positive for the Coronavirus, but says he feels fine.

Horse Racing:

For the first time since WWII, the Kentucky Derby is being postponed.

Racing:

This week, NASCAR finally chose not to do ‘fan-less’ races and, instead, chose to postpone its race events through May 3, in accordance with safety protocols recommended by the CDC in response to Coronavirus. Of the 3 major racing circuits, the NASCAR one has the potential to lose the most races in the 2020 schedule, perhaps as many as 10.

In the NASCAR Cup Series of 2019, Kyle Busch won in the last race at Homestead. In 2018, the winner was Joey Logano, who beat Martin Truex Jr. in the final 15 laps of the final race at Homestead. Truex Jr. won the crown in 2017. The 2020 regular season will begin in February with the Daytona 500. Here is the complete schedule of races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup in 2020 and the results:

2/16 Daytona 500
2/23 Las Vegas, Jiffy Lube Pennzoil 400
3/1 Auto Club 400
3/8 Phoenix, FanShield 500
3/15 Atlanta, Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500
3/22 Homestead, Dixie Vodka 400
3/29 Texas, O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
4/5 Bristol, Food City 500
4/19 Richmond, Toyota Owners 400
4/26 Talladega, GEICO 500
5/3 Dover, NASCAR Cup Race at Dover
5/9 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Race at Martinsville
5/16 Charlotte, NASCAR All Star Open
5/24 Charlotte, Coca-Cola 600
5/31 Kansas, Kansas 400
6/7 Michigan, FireKeepers Casino 400
6/14 Sonoma, Toyota/Save Mart 350
6/21 Chicagoland, Chicagoland 400
6/28 Pocono, Worry-Free Weather Guarantee 350
7/5 Indianapolis, Big Machine Vodka 400
7/11 Kentucky, Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart
7/19 New Hampshire, Foxwoods Resort Casino 301
8/9 Michigan, Consumers Energy 400
8/16 Watkins Glen, Go Bowling at The Glen
8/23 Dover, Drydene 400
8/29 Daytona, Coke Zero Sugar 400
playoffs:
9/6 Darlington, Southern 500
9/12 Richmond, Federated Auto Parts 400
9/19 Bristol, Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race
9/27 Las Vegas, South Point 400
10/4 Talladega, Alabama 500
10/11 Charlotte, Bank of America ROVAL 400
10/18 Kansas, Hollywood Casino 400
10/25 Texas, Texas 500
11/1 Martinsville, NASCAR Cup Fall Race
11/8 Phoenix, NASCAR Cup Series Championship

Formula One begins with F1 Car Launch Dates for the various teams from 2/12 through 2/15 for Renault, Racing Point, McLaren, and Ferrari. That will be followed by Pre-Season Testing schedule. Three F1 team members have been placed in isolation over coronavirus fears. The opening of the season has been delayed at least until 5/3, although they refuse to confirm date change for that race to later, despite the likelihood that the Dutch Grand Prix probably can’t be staged on 5/3. F1 is considering having an abbreviated 19 race season, when it begins. It was set to have a record 22-race season, when pre-season testing ended and the Australia Grand Prix was about to run. Then, Coronavirus, upset the race schedule and also took down F1’s (FWONK) share price, initially down 25%, and now down 40% from it January 2020 high of over $48.00/share. I will be posting the 2020 Formula One calendar in the next Repo Commentary:

3/17 Australia Grand Prix in Melbourne-won by V. Bottas
3/31 Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir-won by Lewis Hamilton
4/14 China Grand Prix in Shanghai (this will be the 1000th Grand Prix)-won by Lewis Hamilton
4/28 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku-won by V. Bottas
5/12 Spain Grand Prix in Barcelona-won by Lewis Hamilton
5/26 Monaco Grand Prix in Monaco-won by Lewis Hamilton
6/9 Canada Grand Prix in Montreal-won by Lewis Hamilton
6/23 France Grand Prix in Le Castellet-won by Lewis Hamilton
6/30 Austria Grand Prix in Spielberg-won by Max Verstappen
7/14 Great Britain Grand Prix in Silverstone-won by Lewis Hamilton
7/28 Germany Grand Prix in Hockenheim-won by Max Verstappen
8/4 Hungary Grand Prix in Budapest-Lewis Hamilton
9/1 Belgium Grand Prix in Spa-Charles Leclerc
9/8 Italy Grand Prix in Monza-Charles Leclerc
9/22 Singapore Grand Prix in Singapore-Sebastian Vettel
9/29 Russia Grand Prix in Sochi-Lewis Hamilton
10/13 Japan Grand Prix in Suzuka-V. Bottas
10/27 Mexico Grand Prix in Mexico City-Lewis Hamilton
11/3 USA Grand Prix in Austin, TX-V. Bottas
11/17 Brazil Grand Prix in Sao Paulo-M. Verstappen
12/1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in Yas Island

Here is the IndyCar Racing circuit and its 2019 calendar and results (Indy cars are generally considered faster than F1 car along straight lines, mostly because their races are on oval tracks, while F1 tracks are more intricate, requiring better brakes and more aerodynamic grip than Indy cars). The season just ended, with Josef Newgarden coming in 8th in the last race, to just edge out Simon Pagenaud for the championship. I will be posting the 2020 calendar in the next Repo Commentary:

3/10 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg-Josef Newgarden
3/24 Circuit of the Americas-Colton Herta
4/7 Grand Prix of Alabama-Takuma Sato
4/14 Grand Prix at Long Beach-Alexander Rossi
5/11 Grand Prix of Indianapolis-Simon Pagenaud
5/26 Indianapolis 500-Simon Pagenaud
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 1-Josef Newgarden
6/1 Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2-Scott Dixon
6/8 Texas Grand Prix-Josef Newgarden
6/23 Road America-Alexander Rossi
7/14 Honda Indy Toronto-Simon Pagenaud
7/20 Iowa 300-Josef Newgarden
7/28 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio-Scott Dixon
8/18 Pocono Grand Prix-Will Power (I love that name!)
8/24 Gateway Grand Prix-Takuma Sato
9/1 Grand Prix of Portland-Will Power (that’s all it takes)
9/22 Grand Prix at Laguna Seca-Colton Herta

IndyCar Racing also hit the brakes on the 2020 season, due to the Coronavirus. So, instead of the first race running in mid-March, the first race is now scheduled for 5/9, basically losing 4 races from the 2019 schedule. Here is the updated 2020 schedule (unless it gets changed again because of the pandemic):

5/09 GMR Grand Prix, Indianapolis, IN
5/24 104th Indy 500, Indianapolis, IN
5/31 Chevrolet Duel in Detroit, MI
6/06 Genesys 600 in Texas
6/21 Rev Group Grand Prix at Road America
6/27 Indy Richmond 300
7/12 Honda Indy Toronto
7/18 Iowa 300
8/16 Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
8/22 Bommarito Automotive Group 500
9/06 Grand Prix of Portland
9/20 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey

Travel News:

The US government has taken unprecedented steps with respect to TRAVEL in response to the increasing public health threat posed by this new coronavirus:

• Foreign nationals who have been in China or iran within the past 14 days cannot enter the US.
• US citizens, residents, and their immediate family members who have been in China or Iran within the past 14 days can enter the US, but they are subject to health monitoring and possible quarantine for up to 14 days.
Other than that, there has yet to be an intra-United States travel ban, and Tuesday, President Trump said our borders are still open between us and Canada and us and Mexico. That contradicts or better defines self-quarantined Trudeau of Canada, who had announced earlier that it was closing its borders. However, on Wednesday, the US closed its border with Canada. So much conflicting news. Even though there is, as of yet, no United States travel ban internally, many airlines have cut staff and cut routes, exacerbating wait times at airports, that were already dealing with new procedures for Coronavirus testing. You can’t blame the airlines for cutting routes, since we aren’t supposed to congregate in groups of 10+ or 50+ (per whomever you are listening to) and they have closed down many of your destinations: Disney, Universal, SeaWorld parks; beaches; concerts; casinos; nightclubs/bars; spa/resorts; sporting events (like March Sadness); and to some degree, restaurants. Ergot, suddenly less people are flying, so airlines don’t need to fly empty planes. The Russian Federal Air Transport Agency estimated that Russia’s airlines could lose $1.4 billion due to the Coronavirus outbreak. North Carolina’s Outer Banks will begin restricting tourists and visitors in an effort to reduce travel and limit residents’ exposure to the Coronavirus. NYC mayor said city officials are “absolutely considering” a shelter-in-place order, similar to the one that took effect Monday in the San Francisco Bay area, where 6 counties are almost completely shut down for 3 weeks and 7 million people. On Monday, the governors of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey together announced the closure of all bars, gyms, theaters, restaurants (except take-out), and casinos in their respective states. The Governor of New York said, “and don’t think you can just drive to a neighboring state, where the rules will be different,” which is why the neighboring state coordinated their efforts with the same rules. We’ve seen that the cruise ship companies have all shut down operations for 60 days, another blow to the hospitality industry, but now MGM shut down their casinos, resorts, and hotels, and other chains are considering similar measures. I hear from my inside sources that hotels may soon be shut down for 90 days. The famous Breakers resort here in Palm Beach just announced that it is shutting down for 3 weeks. How does hotel staff and waiters/waitresses/bartenders live with no paycheck? Meanwhile, many bars and nightclubs have been closed, here in Florida, in NYC, and in the self-proclaimed “Live Music” capital of the world, Austin, TX. Restaurants, which in many states, like Florida, are now being restricted to less than 50 people inside dining, but allowed to do outdoor dining, take-out orders, and food delivery through delivery services (like Door Dash, Grub Hub, Delivery Dudes, etc.), are already seeing a drop of 60-90% of revenue and are worried about how they are going to keep their staff and pay rent and buy provisions. The restaurants and their workers are now struggling to survive. Even the delivery services are changing their policies, automatically adding 15% tip, so you don’t have to touch the deliverer’s tablet to sign or select a tip.

Health News:

The WHO has named COVID-19 (Coronavirus) a “Pandemic”. By 3/17, more than 7,100 people have died from Coronavirus. The WHO says the virus has spread to over 160 countries. Several countries have experienced large outbreaks (including China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Spain, and France). The US and UK cases are rapidly increasing. Most countries around the world have reported very few or no cases of COVID-19. Despite strong travel, migration or trade relationships with China, Africa and Russia, for instance have reported low numbers of cases (114 in Russia by 3/17). This raises the question: are the numbers low because the virus is not reaching the population and establishing highly-populated infected zones, is it due to effective border control, or does it show a lack of screening and reporting? The most susceptible people have weaker immune systems such as the elderly, those with diabetes, and those with asthma (as it particularly invades the lungs). Oddly, perhaps because of stronger immune systems, it doesn’t appear that humans under the age of 19 are becoming infected. The CDC does not recommend people who are well to wear face masks. Masks are recommended for sick people to keep infected droplets out of the air, for health care workers, and for people who are caring for a person who is ill. Cover you mouth when you cough and stay home if you are sick. Please remember that doctors say 80% of the cases of Coronavirus are mild.

The CDC says the following are symptoms which may appear 2-14 days after exposure:

• Fever
• Cough (for Asthmatics, this would be a dry cough as opposed to the damp cough they are accustomed to)
• Shortness of breath
The CDC says the following are symptoms which are EMERGENCY WARNING SIGNS REQUIRING IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION (this list is not all inclusive):

• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
• New confusion or inability to arouse
• Bluish lips or face

With the WHO globally and the CDC domestically urging “social distancing” to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, they recommend the following steps (obviously certain states, cities, and countries have adopted even more ‘Draconian’ measures):

• Stay home if you are mildly ill with COVID-19, except to get medical care. Do not visit public places.
• Stay in touch with your doctor. Call before you get medical care, so that the office can protect themselves and other patients. Be sure to get emergency care if you worsen or have any of those symptoms.
• Avoid public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
• Stay away from others, as much as possible, including people in your home. Try to do as much ‘home isolation’ as possible, staying in a designated “sick room” with a separate bathroom, if available, and away from other people in your home.
• Limit contact with your pets and animals. Although there have not been reports of pets or other animals contracting COVID-19 from humans, it is still recommended for those with the virus to limit contact with animals, until more information is known.
• When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you have COVID-19. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you have COVID-19, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
• If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when you are around other people and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office.
• If you are caring for others who are sick, you should wear a facemask. Visitors, other than caregivers, are not recommended.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw used tissues in a lined trash can. Wash hands immediately with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Do not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people in your home. After using these items, wash them thoroughly with soap and water or clean in a dishwasher.
• Daily clean disinfect high-touch surfaces (phones, remote controls, counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables) in your “sick room” and bathroom. Let someone else clean and disinfect surfaces in common areas of your home, but only you in your “sick room” and bathroom. If a caregiver must clean and disinfect a sick person’s bedroom or bathroom, they should do so on an as-needed basis. The caregiver should wear a mask and wait as long as possible after the sick person has used the bathroom.
• Per the CDC, people with COVID-19 may discontinue home isolation if:
o You will have a test to determine if you are still contagious
♣ You no longer have a fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers.
♣ AND other symptoms have improved.
♣ AND you received 2 negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart.
o Or, if you will not have a test to determine if you are still contagious, then these 3 things must happen, before ending home isolation:
♣ You have had no fever for at least 72 hours, without the use of medicine that reduces fevers.
♣ Other symptoms have improved (cough, shortness of breath, etc.)
♣ AND at least 7 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals. Rarely, do animal coronaviruses infect people and then spread between people (referred to as zoonotic), but those diseases have gained the most media attention and panic over the last couple of decades, including: MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, Swine Flu, H1N1 Bird Flu, and this SARS-CoV-2. The MERS and SARS viruses have their origins in bats, although the transfer of MERS was from dromedary camels and the original SARS via civet cats. The symptoms in humans are respiratory difficulty, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Authorities estimate that the fatality rate is about 3%, with patients suffering pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or kidney failure.

The United States has joined other countries in urging “Social Distancing” of 6 feet between people (even at the White House Press Conferences) to reduce contagion of the coronavirus.

I have some simple advice (below) from a leading virologist in California, Dr. Robb of UC San Diego:

• NO HANDSHAKING (use fist bump, elbow bump, or bow)
• USE ONLY YOUR KNUCKLE TO TOUCH LIGHT SWITCHES, ELEVATOR BUTTONS, ETC. (use disposable gloves for gasoline pumps)
• OPEN DOORS WITH YOUR CLOSED FIST OR HIP
• USE DISINFECTANT WIPES PROVIDED BY STORES TO WIPE HANDLES AND GROCERY CARTS
• WASH YOUR HANDS WITH SOAP FOR 10-20 SECONDS AND/OR USE A GREATER THAN 60% ALCOHOL-BASED HAND SANITIZER (whenever you return from ANY activity that involves locations where other people gather)
• KEEP A BOTTLE OF HAND SANITIZER AT EACH OF YOUR HOME’S ENTRANCES AND IN YOUR CAR
• IF POSSIBLE, COUGH OR SNEEZE INTO A DISPOSABLE TISSUE AND DISCARD, AS YOUR HANDS OR EVEN ELBOW/GARMENT WILL CONTAIN INFECTIOUS VIRUS THAT CAN BE PASSED ON FOR UP TO A WEEK
• USE SURGICAL MASKS AROUND PEOPLE COUGHING OR SNEEZING TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF TIMES YOU TOUCH YOUR FACE (we touch our nose/mouth on average 90 times per day, without knowing it!)
• STOCK UP ON LATEX OR NITRILE GLOVES, HAND SANITIZER, SURGICAL MASKS, ZINC LOZENGES (proven effective in blocking viruses worsening when taken early)

Last week, President Trump addressed the American public from the Oval Office, for only the second time during his Presidency, to announce sweeping and unprecedented efforts by the US Government to contain the coronavirus and protect the American people. He announced that he is closing the US to any incoming foreigners from Europe (except the UK), which will impact 26 countries, as of Midnight on Friday 3/13/20 (kind of implying that the contagion in the US may have been a result of the open-border policy of the EU). He has also approved $8.3 billion in aid to hospitals and health agencies to specifically deal with coronavirus, and has met with the heads of major health insurers to get them to suspend co-payments for Americans affected by the coronavirus. Coronavirus is now in all 50 US states and the death toll has reached 100 in the US.

Health departments in the US reported the largest number of Coronavirus-related deaths, Monday, on any single day since the onset of the outbreak, at 22, bringing the nationwide total to 89. As of Tuesday, that number broke 100. Massachusetts is easing requirements for licensing health-care workers so that more doctors, nurses, and emergency staff can respond, as the confirmed cases there exceeded past 200. There is still nationwide debate and confusion over guidelines last week by the CDC over when and for how long schools should be closed, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. It did not help, when on Tuesday, the CDC canceled its conference call briefing on the matter, scheduled with AASA, the School Superintendents Association. As of Tuesday, 38 states had moved to close all public schools, sending 38.8 million students from 74,000 schools home. This has presented a double-problem for parents, especially if they are working and can’t be at home for these now idle children and they must also learn quickly how to home-school their children. Let’s talk about the children some more, or young adults. Although, young people under 19 are not particularly susceptible to the virus, they can easily transmit the virus, particularly by transferring surface virus from high-touch areas to other surfaces and to older people, who may be highly susceptible to the virus. So, it’s very important that they too follow the rules and restrictions. And, one more thing about young adults, as most colleges and universities and community colleges have moved classes off-campus to online, many are now saying that they will complete this term online and will cancel commencements or graduations for seniors, to avoid contagion among large groups. That’s one I hadn’t thought about before. Here, University of Miami, University of Florida, FIU, and FAU have already cancelled their commencements. Scientists are warning that we may need to live with social distancing in the future. Hundreds of scientists are now scrambling to find a coronavirus vaccine. There are reports that a vaccine originally created to combat ebola, that didn’t work for that disease, may work for this disease. The French health minister made remarks Monday that taking anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, could have severe consequences for people with Coronavirus, although there haven’t been any tests showing that. If you are concerned, you could switch to Tylenol, which is fine for reducing the fever accompanying Coronavirus. Sorting through the reams of health information, I saw some studies and scenarios of the pandemic being used by health officials, and even in the “mild” scenario, the US supposedly need 4 times as many hospital beds as it has now. In the “worst case” scenario, the country is reportedly short some 790,000 ventilators, which are made by only 5 companies currently.

Animal News:

Scientists

Entertainment News:

With the specter of the coronavirus, although local musicians are really suffering, unable to play gigs at restaurants, private functions, charity events, or conventions, big-name professional musicians have taken to giving free online concerts to the public on a daily basis. So far, P!nk, Chris Martin, John Legend, Dave Foster & Katherine McPhee, and others have joined the trend to perform sort-of unplugged concerts of their top songs live-streamed over the Internet, Instagram, Facebook, and other sites. It is a cool way for the entertainers to give back to and keep in touch with the public, who are most likely hunkered down at home, since those performers’ concerts, among other things, have been cancelled or postponed.

Speaking about that last point, obviously, I had some ballgames cancelled that I was to perform at and have had several gigs cancelled as the events and restaurants have been cancelled or limited. There are many singers, musicians, actors/actresses, and whole group behind the scenes (including the servers and vendors at those events) that frequently live paycheck to paycheck through those events and projects and concerts, who are now struggling. I didn’t realize until today that, because of the nature of their employment, (project or gig-oriented, not salaried), entertainment workers will not qualify for Coronavirus relief under the current bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act. They don’t qualify because of the requirements for days worked on the job, so they won’t receive the emergency paid leave benefits of the Act. I reached out to my Governor, Congressman, and Senator to urge inclusion of entertainment workers in the Act.

Lyle Waggoner, an actor famous for the Carol Burnett Show, died Tuesday, at age 84. Giselle Bundchen paid tribute to Boston, after Tom Brady’s major announcement. Prince George and Princess Charlotte are set to be homeschooled during Coronavirus. Princess Beatrice is “reviewing” her wedding plans amid Coronavirus concerns. Joy-Anna Duggar is pregnant, 9 months after suffering miscarriage. Amanda Bynes is pregnant with her first child. Did you know that Sam Elliott is almost 80? Oprah Winfrey is shutting down “awful” arrest rumors. Late Night hosts, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel are delivering at-home monologues. Savannah Guthrie co-anchored Today from home amid a “mild” sore throat. That left her co-anchor, Hoda Kotb, alone, as both Craig and Al Roker are out, diagnosed with Coronavirus.

This past weekend’s box-office, weekend 11 of 2020, was pretty strong, considering coronavirus fears of large gatherings. I think the numbers were BEFORE theaters were closed by authorities. ONWARD held on to the top spot in its second week, with $10.6 million in box-office. BLOODSHOT debuted at No.2, with $9.2 million. I STILL BELIEVE debuted at No.3 with $9.1 million. THE INVISIBLE MAN dropped to No.4, with $5.9 million, in its third week. THE HUNT debuted at No.5, with $5.3 million.

Opening this Friday, although I think in very limited release, with all the theater closings: I AM PATRICK, BLUE STORY, DOSED, A DOG CALLED MONEY, HUMAN CAPITAL, DEERSKIN, THE INFILTRATORS, HOOKING UP, and POSTI.

Technology & Space News:

Well, if you thought you were going to just spend your extra time at home on Amazon Prime (or were worried that your kids were), that may not happen. On Tuesday, Amazon announced it was suspending its warehouse deliveries until 4/5, except for medical supplies and “high-demand” items. Amazon announced separately that it was hiring up to 100,000 more warehouse and delivery workers. Also, grocery chains are hiring, amid the crushing coronavirus demand.

I hate to report certain stories, like those about Coronavirus that feed into the mass hysteria and panic, but I am trying to be objective and give you necessary information as it comes out. This next story just troubles me on a different level. After a months-long analysis of alleged pieces of ancient 2000-year-old Dead Sea Scrolls that are on display at a privately funded museum, Museum of the Bible, in Washington, DC, researchers have revealed them to be clever forgeries. Museum of the Bible is funded by Hobby Lobby president, billionaire Steve Green. After an exhaustive review of all of the imaging and scientific analysis of all of the fragments on display, it was the unanimous conclusion that they were all fake, and actually inscribed on ancient leather rather than the ancient parchment used in the authentic Scrolls. Moreover, each one exhibits characteristics that suggest they are deliberate forgeries which were created in the 20th Century and intended to mimic authentic Dead Sea Scroll fragments. Most of the authentic Scroll fragments, that are in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and are from around the time period of the emergence of Christianity in ancient Palestine, are housed at the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

US News:

The White House declared a National Emergency to free up funds and powers to deal with Coronavirus. The White House is supporting a massive economic stimulus package of $1 trillion, which would include sending direct cash payments (estimated now at $2000 per person, roughly approximating two weeks’ pay) to Americans in next 2 weeks (an idea which originated in Congress), and a tax incentive for more Americans (which originated in the White House). The White House chose to support the direct cash payments, as it felt the payroll tax holiday idea would take too long, over a period of months. The legislation would also include support for businesses, a $50 billion bailout for the airline industry, and many other measures to try to stabilize the economy. This is all in addition to another $100 billion-plus package passed by the House that would provide paid sick leave, unemployment insurance and other benefits to impacted workers. It is awaiting Senate vote on the package. The US Treasury and IRS announced that they will delay the 4/15/20 tax payment deadline by 90 days, on Tuesday. You still will have to FILE your taxes by 4/15/20, and they encourage you to do that because some people will be getting needed refunds, but you don’t have to pay taxes you owe (up to $1,000,000 for individuals and $10 million for corporations, for a total of $300 billion) for 90 days, without penalty or interest. Many of you may not be aware, but FEMA is actually playing a secondary role in the Coronavirus response, as the White House Task Force has taken on that role, working with the Department of Health and Human Services. It turns out that FEMA does not have stockpile of supplies and materials and does no medical testing. Although Ohio chose to postpone Tuesday’s Primary elections, to reduce Coronavirus threat, Florida, Arizona, and Illinois went through with theirs, to varying degrees of effectiveness. No surprise, Florida did not do a great job, as many poll workers refused to show up to work, out of fear of the virus. That left long lines at the polls, and 17 precincts not even voting. Biden is the winner so far of Florida, after just 14% of the vote count and receiving 57% of the vote. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has warned of the potential for 20% unemployment amid the coronavirus pandemic, if the US Government doesn’t move fast. Some US states are already seeing spikes in Jobless Claims, due to the Coronavirus. The FBI has arrested the chair of Harvard University’s chemistry department, accusing him of lying about his work for a Chinese university, and charged 2 others who worked in the Boston area for aiding China’s efforts to steal scientific research. US officials reportedly said the activity was part of a years-long effort by the Chinese government to steal intellectual property and technology to compete in the global marketplace.

International News:

China, whose first cases of Coronavirus showed up in December, has now dismantled the temporary hospitals it had fabricated quickly to handle the thousands of cases, because there is no need for them now, with cases down dramatically. That might be a good indication of how long the virus might impact the United States, although we have yet to expand as many resources and instituted all of the Draconian restrictions on our population that the Chinese did. China has accused the US military of giving them the Coronavirus, which President Trump has vehemently denied. President Trump actually called the pandemic a “Chinese virus”, in response. Russia still claims that the Coronavirus is some kind of biowarfare weapon. I find it interesting that we haven’t heard much about Russian cases of Coronavirus or how the Russian government is dealing with the crisis. In South Korea, Tuesday, Coronavirus recoveries outnumber new cases for the first time since the outbreak began. On Tuesday night, Russia began testing a potential Coronavirus vaccine. Ukraine temporarily closed 107 of its border checkpoints, including those with neighbor, Russia. All football (soccer), hockey and basketball games have been suspended in Russia until 4/10. In Italy, which is lockdown and citizens are singing from their balconies to each other to keep spirits up, only pharmacies and grocery stores are open, and more than 2,000 people have been killed by Coronavirus. This one caught my attention: Algeria, as part of a Coronavirus response, has banned all anti-government protests, which have been going on for more than a year. The Algerian president said that “the lives of citizens are above all considerations even if this requires restricting some freedoms.” Guatemala has suspended flights of Salvadoran and Honduran asylum seekers. On Tuesday, the EU shut down all external borders of the European countries to foreigners for the next 30 days. So, President Trump arrived in India on Tuesday, to start his international tour, and over 100,000 people showed up in a rally for him. So, much for gatherings over 50 people and ‘social distancing.’

Florida:

The passenger who boarded a flight from NYC’s JFK Airport on Jet Blue, knowing ahead of time that he had tested Positive for the Coronavirus, forcing Florida health authorities to meet the plain at Palm Beach International, bringing the illness to Palm Beach County for the first time, and forcing his many fellow passengers into quarantine, along with likely civil prosecution, may also be criminally prosecuted, according to the Florida Attorney General. Although it isn’t an easy case to prove, there are laws on the books that were put in place to protect people from malicious attempts to infect them with HIV and STDs. So far, Florida has had at least 150 confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 5 deaths. Health officials here have mentioned that the droplets that are passed on do not survive as well in heat and humidity.

Here is an up-to-date look at Coronavirus precautions being taken now, specific to this area of Florida:

• Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County, and Martin County have closed all Bars and Nightclubs for 30 days.
• Certain public beaches of Palm Beach County, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami have been closed, due to large numbers of Spring-Breakers that usually congregate in groups there, but some public beaches are open to people who do not congregate in groups of 10 or more people.
• Restaurants in Palm Beach County and other counties have been restricted to no dining-in of 50 or more people, but are allowed to have outdoor seating, take-out orders, and delivery orders.
• On Monday, the city of Palm Beach issued a curfew of 9pm, to limit the coronavirus spread among large gatherings of people.
• So far, in Palm Beach County, the Palm Beach Par 3 golf course, near Mar-a-Lago, is the only public golf course that has been closed until further notice. Most private golf courses remain open.
• LA Fitness gyms in the area closed on Monday until 4/1/20.
• Grocery stores, malls, pharmacies, fast food restaurants, and gas stations are still Open.
• West Palm Beach postponed the International Boat Show to May.
• West Palm Beach cancelled Sun Fest, which usually draws tens of thousands of people for 5 days of concerts and more.
• Miami cancelled Ultra Music Festival, which usually draws some 100,000 people for a few days of concerts and more.

I am usually singing a National Anthem, singing in my 6-part harmony group Generation Gap, and/or doing an Elvis Presley gig, each week here in Palm Beach County, FL. I had many gigs in November and December, quieted down in January, but had picked up again with private gigs and 6 MLB Spring Training games. However, that all came to a halt when MLB CANCELLED Spring Training and Florida authorities limited gatherings to less than 50, particularly for events and restaurants. If you were inclined to see much more famous bands or solos in concert than my Generation Gap or Elvis Presley performances, there were many acts which came to Florida in 2019, and these are expected to come (or have come) in 2020 (below), although the sooner ones have been postponed due to Coronavirus. A public service announcement about the outdoor amphitheater in West Palm Beach (currently adjacent to the South Florida Fair), it has been very confusing with all the name changes, and it has happened again. It was originally called the Coral Sky Amphitheater, then was changed to the Cruzan Rum Amphitheater, then to Perfekt Vodka Amphitheater, then back to Coral Sky Amphitheater, and was changed again to iThink Financial Services Amphitheater. None of the names have been particularly catchy and all those changes occurred only in the last 11 years! Because of the coronavirus, some events, such as fairs and boat shows in Florida have been cancelled or postponed. So, please check ahead of time to see if the concert you are going to is still being held.

SOUTH FLORIDA 2020 SCHEDULE (next 2 months):

Celine Dion-Miami, January 17
Queensryche-Fort Lauderdale, January 17
Brian Wilson-Miami, January 17
Mary Wilson-Bonita Springs, January 19
Starship-West Palm Beach, January 22
Steve Martin & Martin Short-Hollywood, January 25
Guns N Roses-Miami, January 31
Jason Aldean,Riley Green,Morgan Wallen-Orlando, January 31
Maroon 5-Miami, February 1
Zac Brown Band-Sunrise, February 1
Styx-Port St. Lucie, February 1
Andrea Bocelli-Miami, February 11
Kool and the Gang & Village People-Key West, February 21
John Fogarty-Fort Lauderdale, February 22
Paul Anka-West Palm Beach, March 13
Harry Connick Jr.-Fort Lauderdale, March 18
Cher-Miami, March 24
America-Fort Lauderdale, March 24
YES and Alan Parsons Project-Fort Lauderdale, March 25
Little River Band-Fort Lauderdale, March 26
The Who-Fort Lauderdale, April 21
Elton John-Miami, May 30
Def Leppard and Motley Crue, Miami Gardens, July 7
Nickelback-West Palm Beach, August 15
Foreigner, Kansas, and Europe-West Palm Beach, September 6
 

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